Thursday, December 28, 2006

Musings About Public Radio

I am an NPR junkie - I'l admit it. I have a two-hour round trip commute daily, so I have plenty of time to myself, and generally I fill that time with "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air," and other shows, depending on the hour.

Why do I spend so much time with Michele Norris (and isn't it interesting that her name is spelled Michele but pronounced Mee-shell?) and Steve Inskeep? In part, because I crave intelligent, adult conversation, quirky stories, and international views. I also squirm with discomfort when subjected to shock radio and goofy local radio hosts sponsoring call-in embarassment radio.

What don't I like about NPR? I don't like long, protracted stories dissecting and analyzing a story to death, or multiple stories about the same topic in the same half-hour segment. Maybe this is an anti-Headline News concept. HN recycles the same stories every 15 minutes, which is great if you have a limited timeframe in which to catch up on the news. In both "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," the listener hears fewer stories, but much more about each story than s/he ever expected. Much of it is interesting, occasionally even fascinating. Sometimes, however, the stories slog along, flogging the dead horse of interest, until I am desperate for anything else.

I also don't like reporters interviewing each other when they have run out of news to report - not that NPR has a lock on this one. CNN is by far the most aggregious offender in the interview-an-interviewer race. Most interviews are with people who play at least a tangential role in the news story being covered. There is at least something intriguing about eliciting a personal perspective with an occasional unexpected twist - a correction, a sharp response, etc. - from a person of interest. But, really. A reporter who is covering the story should never become the subject of the story. Report honestly, candidly, and fairly. Respectfully but persistently question, then let the interviewee speak for him- or herself. (It's okay, CJ. Breathe.)

When I have had too much of either of these annoyances, I switch to my CD deck for an ecclectic mix of music...but that's another post.When I travel for business, one of my first priorities is to locate and listen to the local NPR station, trying to find my "comfort" radio. It's a bit like bringing a framed photograph of loved ones to set on the desk in my hotel room - a familiar, friendly face or voice to remind me I'm not alone. So here's to public radio - let's support it, use it, and tell its keepers what we think of it.

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